People held massive anti-regime protests in several cities across Iran on Thursday, including Abadan, Khorramshahr, Behbahan, Shahinshahr and Bandar Abbas.
The protests in Abadan began on Wednesday, following Monday's deadly collapse of part of the city's 10-story Metropol building, which according to Iranian media left at least 80 people trapped under the rubble.
The authorities in Iran failed to send appropriate timely emergency response, deploying anti-riot forces for fear of angry riots instead.
They also gave conflicting accounts about the fate of the building's owner and constructor, Hossein Abdolbaghi, who is the main suspect for the faulty construction of the Metropol tower and its collapse.
Authorities initially said he had been arrested, later claiming he had died in the building's fall. One employee of Abadan's pathology department released an audio message saying that the staff were pressured into declaring the body of one of the victims killed in the tragedy belonged to Abdolbaghi. Iranian TV also broadcast a video of Abdolbaghi's brothers identifying his body in the morgue.
But based on a number of eyewitness, Hossein Abdolbaghi is allegedly still alive and has been helped to flee the country, presumably because of his links to Iranian regime officials, who could be implicated for the catastrophic collapse of the Metropol building if Abdolbaghi was to be arrested and probed.
Wednesday's protests in Abadan followed the aforementioned events, and were further inflamed by authorities stating they would end the rescue mission and knock down the rest of the building whilst the distressed families of victims had not given up hope their loved ones were still alive.
Thousands of people took to the streets of Abadan in mourning and anger, protesting against incompetent authorities, calling their claim of Abdolbaghi being dead a lie.
The demonstrations quickly evolved into anti-regime protests, with people chanting slogans against top Iranian officials, blaming them for the tragedy and for widespread systemic corruption.
On Thursday, massive protests continued in Abadan. People in the neighboring city of Khorramshahr, and in Behbahan, both also in Khuzestan province, took to the streets too in support of the protests in Abadan.
Demonstrations were also held in Shahinshahr, located in Iran's central province of Isfahan, where many war refugees from Abadan had migrated to during the Iran-Iraq conflict.
In Bandar Abbas too people held mourning ceremonies in the streets to show solidarity with Abadan and to honor those killed in the collapse of the Metropol building.
The latest protests in Iran have been directed against Iran's leaders including the country's president Ebrahim Raisi and supreme leader Ali Khamenei.
Footage of the protests in Abadan show thousands of people chanting "Death to Khamenei" and "Khamenei, be ashamed, let go of the country". Based on the videos received, protests held on Thursday in the other above mentioned cities also directly targeted Iran's regime.
The Iranian authorities have held back releasing the true casualty toll for fear of further inflaming the public, announcing 19 deaths so far. It is thought that around 80 people were in the building when it collapsed, many of whom are still buried under the rubble.
According to eyewitnesses account, some protesters in Abadan, angered by further collapse of the Metropol building and more people being trapped, attacked the city’s municipality on Thursday night, which videos received show. Also, amidst the protests of Thursday night in Abadan, a shop belonging to Metropol building owner Abdolbaghi was burnt down, an incident which was caught on camera too.
Furthermore, according to some accounts, riot control forces attempted to clampdown on protesters in Abadan on Thursday night but were stopped by the city’s police officers.
Citizens also report the shutdown of internet services in Abadan.